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Full text of "A story about a real man"

144

B. POLEVOI

He woke up late, when the sunbeams were already
playing in the middle of the ward, which indicated that
it was noon, and he woke with a joyous feeling in his
heart. A dream? What dream? His eye caught the
magazine which he had tightly gripped in his hand while
asleep; from the crumpled page Lieutenant Karpovich
was still smiling that strained, gallant smile. Meresyev
carefully smoothed out the magazine and winked at the
lieutenant.

The Commissar, already washed and combed, was
watching him with a smile.

"What are you winking at him for?" he asked, feeling

pleased.
"I'm goii

; going to fly," answered Alexei.
"How? He had only one foot missing, but you've lost
both."
"But I am Soviet, Russian!" responded Alexei.
He uttered those words in a tone that suggested they
were a guarantee that he would score a point over
Lieutenant Karpovich and fly.
At lunch he ate everything the ward maid brought him,
looked in surprise at his empty plate and asked for more.
He was nervously excited, sang, tried to whistle, and
argued with himself aloud. When the professor came on
his round, Alexei took advantage of the special favour
he showed him to badger him with questions about what
he must do to hasten his recovery. The professor an-
swered that he must eat more and sleep more. After that,
at dinner, Alexei demanded two helpings of the second
course and forced himself to eat four cutlets. He could
not fall asleep after dinner although he lay for an hour
and a half with his eyes closed.
Happiness is inclined to make one egotistical. When
Alexei bombarded the professor with questions, he failed
to notice what had attracted the attention of the whole
ward. Vasily Vasilyevich appeared in the ward as usual,
punctually at the moment when the sunbeam, after slowly
crossing the whole floor of the ward, touched the spot
where a piece of parqueting was missing. The professor
was attentive as usual, but everybody noticed a sort of
abstracted look about him they had never seen before.
He did not rail and scold as he usually did, and the veins